7. Jasmine Murray
And here we have another alum of the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant. Jasmine, 16, was Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen back in 2007, went on to finish in the top 10 in the national competition and earned the honor of singing the national anthem prior to the Miss America Pageant in January 2008.
The Daily Leader newspaper identifies her as a junior at the Mississippi School of Arts, and Idol viewers got to meet her during the Jacksonville auditions. She’s the youngest in a family of five children and, in her Idol interview, says she likes singing country and pop-rock.
She’s a bit of a miracle, too, judging from pre-audition comments from her mother, who said she had extreme toxemia while pregnant with Jasmine and that doctors didn’t expect either of them to make it.
8. Jeanine Vailes
Jeanine, 28, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., is a mystery gal in this competition. Have we seen her yet?
She auditioned in San Francisco, but Idol spent that episode featuring freaks and no-talents instead of singers with real Hollywood potential. In her Idol interview, she credits her sister for convincing her to audition, and it sounds like she might have tried out for Idol in the past.
“I was totally excited and shocked at the same time,” she says of her reaction to receiving a golden ticket. “I just didn’t think it could happen for me again because I thought I was out of chances.” She says she’s been singing since she was 4 and started out in her church choir.
9. Jessica Langseth
Ever hear of a Grammy-winning blues guitarist named Jonny Lang? Well he was born Jon Langseth Jr., and Jessica is his sister.
I guess figuring what worked for her brother might work for her, Jessica shortened her last name and formed the Jesse Lang Band. The band was playing in the Minnesota area when it was featured in a January 2005 review in Blues on Stage. Asked to classify her music, Jessica told Blues on Stage: “It ain’t country. It’s good old rock, but it’s also me and what I do.”
She’s also included in the band profiles on the Bogart’s Nightclub (Apple Valley, Minn.) Web site, which says Jesse Lang … or Jessica Langseth … sang with a well-known Minnesota band T.C. Jammers around 2002 before deciding to put together her own band. In her Idol interview, Jessica, 25, says she’ll sing almost anything, but really loves “old Motown stuff.”
Joanna Pacitti (scratched from competition)
This 25-year-old Philly native signed with A&M Records as a teenager and released a CD, “This Crazy Life” under Geffen Records in 2006 as simply Joanna. You can still download the 13-track CD — for just $6.99 — from iTunes.
She has also had songs on soundtracks, including Legally Blonde and the Bratz: Motion Picture Soundtrack. So, is she this year’s Carly Smithson? Well, at least Idol judge Kara DioGuardi immediately identified her as a former A&M artist during the Louisville auditions, as opposed to last year where there was barely a mention of Carly’s pre-Idol big-label CD flop.
Prior to her A&M days, at age 12, Joanna won a competition to play the lead role in the 20th anniversary revival of Annie. But she fell ill before the show landed on Broadway, returned to find she’d been replaced and wound up being interviewed on several national TV shows about the subsequent controversy.
As for “This Crazy Life,” Joanna shared writing credit on eight of the 13 tracks. And she seemed truly grateful after getting her golden ticket to Hollywood, breaking down in tears over her fresh opportunity.
10. Felicia Barton
Felicia, 26, hails from Virginia Beach, Va. Idol’s blue bar, flashed on the screen when singers audition, identified her as a singer and mom. She earned her golden ticket by singing “Put Your Records On” in Louisville, Kentucky.
And she joins the long list of Idol semifinalists who can already be heard on CD, though Felicia’s is a little different. Felicia is a member of Freedom Fellowship in Virginia Beach. In fact, her husband of seven years, Loren, is an associate pastor, according to the Freedom Fellowship Web site.
And Freedom Fellowship has a live-worship record available on CD Baby “led by the powerful, passionate vocals of” … that’s right, Felicia Barton. The album is “You Are Near.” It was released in 2007. And you can hear clips of the songs here.
The folks at Freedom Fellowship are obviously pretty proud of Felicia. Their events page encouraged folks to gather at the ministry center to watch the Hollywood Week episodes. “Felicia grew up here at Freedom and has served as our worship leader for the past seven years,” the notice reads. “She is a powerful vocalist, song writer and mommy to Malachi.”
In a video posted on Idol today, Felicia says her son is 1 1/2. And in her Hollywood Week video interview, she said he was her inspiration for trying out for season eight. In Felicia’s words: “I decided to audition for American Idol because I have a little boy and I want to teach him to chase his dreams, and I think the best way to teach him that for him to watch mommy chase her dreams.”
Hey, very sweet. And Felicia doesn’t just sing at Freedom Fellowship. I found a blog from the Hampton Roads Pilot that indicates she was performing at gigs around Virginia Beach even as earlier Idol episodes were airing this season. At the bottom of this blog here’s a video of Felicia singing at Beach Street USA in Virginia Beach in 2008.
11. Kendall Beard
As a teen, this 24-year-old Texas gal apparently traveled around her home state performing at places like the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, then put her music career on hold while attendng the University of Texas, where she got a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.
In the summer of 2007, she moved to California to attend the university’s Los Angeles program and wound up interning for Sony BMG in the artist publicity department. “I thought I could settle for working in the business side of music, but once I was there, it became apparent to me that this was not where I was meant to be. My love for the creative side of music was too strong to deny.”
That quote comes from the product description for a self-titled CD she released under the Weberworks Entertainment label after meeting Grammy award winning producer Jeffrey Weber. Amazon.com lists four tracks on the CD, which is no longer available. Kendall described it this way: “This album is just like my personality, it has a touch of everything, a little rock, a bit of pop and a touch of country and blues.”
Meanwhile, the Lufkin Daily News has been tracking Kendall’s progress on Idol and reports that she had returned to Lufkin last year to play at the St. Cyprian’s Episcoplal School’s annual fundraiser, the Bayou Bash, and credited the school’s staff for helping her overcome dyslexia when she was a student there. The newspaper also reported that her father is friends with Britney Spears’ father, Jamie, an old college buddy.
Lufkin Daily News story: http://www.lufkindailynews.com/news/content/news/stories/2009/01/
12. Kristen McNamara
Kristen, 23, from Napa Valley, Calif., was a contestant on season four of the Idol-like country music competition Nashville Star, placing sixth back in 2006. At the time, she toted around a squirrel skin as a good luck charm, according to her video blogs for the show.
According to her MySpace profile, her “first paying gig” was singing at a funeral and, before heading to Nashville, she sang for the San Francisco Giants and 49ers.
At some point she also recorded a series of songs with movie stuntman and director John Stewart (he directed 14 episodes of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), including the first two below, both of which are more pop than country. “Now That I Found You” is particularly good; most of the video you’ll see is from her Nashville Star blogs, where she dislayed her wacky side, singing while sitting in a hillbilly hot tub and interviewing a lobster she was in the process of eating.
In her Idol video interview, she says she now prefers singing “adult contemporary pop,” that friends talked her into auditioning for the show but that American Idol is “something that’s really good to have in your back pocket in the music business these days.”
Joanna’s video for “Let it Slide”
Felicia singing at Beach Street USA in Virginia Beach in 2008.
Kristen sings “Now That I Found You” (Check this one out!)
Kristen’s video for “Tonight is Goodbye”
Kristen sings “This One’s for the Girls” on Nashville Star